Ian Botham’s criticism of IPL – is it justified?

Sir Ian Botham, perhaps the greatest cricketer to have come out of England, recently used the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture to voice his opinions against the IPL. He stated that it was becoming too powerful for cricket and also felt that it would be better if it did not exist at all. He has also stated that it is the perfect platform for betting and match fixing. While all the comments made by the legendary ex-cricketer undoubtedly have the ring of truth about them, certain introspection needs to be made before they are fully regarded as justifiable.


To start with, Sir Botham needs to understand that more than IPL drawing players from around it is the players who are more bothered about appearing in this tournament. The format of auctioning players that has invoked the ire of many is actually preferred by the players themselves since it allows them to be paid exorbitantly high amounts. As far as common knowledge goes, 10% of this amount is paid to the respective board. It is always easy to criticize the BCCI as a money minting organization but the fact remains that players are equally eager to take part in the same and the boards also benefit because they get a part of the huge purse paid to the players.


As far as betting and match fixing are concerned the same thing happens in County Cricket on a regular basis. Recent examples of people implicated in the same include Mervyn Westfield and Danish Kaneria. The Bangaldesh Premier League has also seen plenty of instances of match fixing – the instance of Mohammad Ashraful springs to mind. Instances of corruption are rife in almost every part of the world but unfortunately only the IPL is singled out – perhaps the magnitude of interest and revenue generated by the tournament is one major reason in this regard.


Yes, it would also be a mistake to assume that nothing is wrong with IPL. To start with, the BCCI could have followed a different model of ownership where all the business entities could own only 40% of the teams and BCCI could have been the principal owners. That would have at least ensured that the board retained more control of its affairs. Quite often there have been instances where in the Champion’s League T20, where BCCI is a major stakeholder, and where 4 teams from IPL play, players have been forced to represent their franchises at the behest of the team owners. Doug Bollinger and Mike Hussey once turned out for Chennai Super Kings before Australia were to tour India for a test series. Understandably, they were fatigued from their exertions and were unable to perform in the ensuing series. Such situations could be avoided if national priorities were given greater importance by the BCCI.


Recently Sunil Narine decided to play for Kolkata Knight Riders instead of representing West Indies against New Zealand and he will also not play for the region in the upcoming test series against Bangladesh so that he can appear in the CLT20. In such situation perhaps there needs to be a policy that country should always come first.


The auction process could also be changed where a draft model could replace the existing pattern. Instead of fighting over players teams can be allotted turns as was done in the recently concluded ISL auctions. This would also mean that teams have more purse in their hands and can buy more players instead of spending their money on one player and then ending up with lopsided teams as happened to Mumbai Indians in the recent edition.


As far as the question of existence goes, perhaps the sheer popularity enjoyed by the tournament among fans and players in India as well as the world would perhaps ensure its existence for a few more irrespective of whether people like it or not.